Swann Memorial Fountain
|aka: Fountain of the Three Rivers|
|Artist||Alexander Stirling Calder|
The fountain, by Alexander Stirling Calder designed with architect Wilson Eyre, memorializes Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society. The Society had been planning a memorial fountain in honor of its late president and founder. After agreeing that the fountain would become city property, the society was granted the site in the center of Logan Circle.
Adapting the tradition of “river god” sculpture, Calder created large Native American figures to symbolize the area's major streams, the Delaware, the Schuylkill, and the Wissahickon. The young girl leaning on her side against an agitated, water-spouting swan represents the Wissahickon Creek; the mature woman holding the neck of a swan stands for the Schuylkill River; and the male figure, reaching above his head to grasp his bow as a large pike sprays water over him, symbolizes the Delaware River. Sculpted frogs and turtles spout water toward the 50-foot (15 m) geyser in the center, though typically the geyser only spouts 25 ft (8 m). The use of swans is a pun on Dr. Swann's name. Eyre designed the basin and the interlacing water jets, including the central geyser.
During warm months, swimming in the fountain is a long-standing Philadelphia tradition. In the summer of 2006, the City of Philadelphia began enforcing a swimming ban with a nearly constant security presence. This presence will taper off and disappear completely by 2009.[dated info]
Besides serving as the center of Logan Square, the Fountain also stands as the midpoint on the Ben Franklin Parkway, which includes also sculptures by two other generations of the Calder family. Stirling Calder's father, Alexander Milne Calder, designed the statue of William Penn atop the tower of City Hall at the southeast end, while, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the northwest end, the mobile Ghosts is by Alexander Calder, Stirling Calder's son. This led to a local wit referring to the three sculptures as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
For many years the fountain was framed by a magnificent circle of Paulownia trees, which have had to be replaced.
The fountain rose to small fame due to its mention in songs by the pop punk band, The Wonder Years. The song Logan Circle from the album The Upsides opens with "They turned on the fountain today at Logan Circle." There are several fountain references, and references to the city of Philadelphia in the band's lyrics.
- Hayes, Margaret Calder, Three Alexander Calders, Paul S Eriksson Publisher, Middlebury, Vermont, 1977 p 162
- Bach, Penny Balkin, Public Art in Philadelphia, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1992 p 47, 75
- Fairmount Park Association, Sculpture of a City – Philadelphia’s Treasures in Bronze and Stone, Fairmount Park Association, Walker Publishing Co., Inc, NY. NY 1974, pp 230-239